One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned in my long career as a mother is that everything you need to know about human behavior comes from raising children under three years old. And what you learn is that there are, in the whole spectrum of humanity, only two types of behavior: voluntary and coerced.
Remarkably, the same holds true when those children grow up. We adults, and the societies we have created, are dedicated to only one of two principles: that human beings have the right to self-determination or they do not. And if they do not, then coercion, and the ills of intimidation, thuggery, and corruption that so often follow it, become the order of the day.
I like to believe that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the great state that gave birth to liberty, was dedicated to self-determination. But, until we become a right to work state, we are not. Until those bills are passed we live in a commonwealth of coercion by unions and our own state government.
Let me give you an example of the dangers of forced unionization. My mother had a three-decade long career as a federal employee. During that time, my mother was approached repeatedly by unions soliciting her to join. Fortunately, federal employees can chose whether or not to financially support a union. My mother decided she did not want to put our family’s money towards those dues and turned them down.
And it is a good thing she was able to do so. First, we needed every penny my mother made to go towards supporting our family; she did not believe the unions would have added to that. Second, my mother is a devout Roman Catholic, as is our whole family. As time evolved, she had serious ethical and moral objections to the political parties and politicians the unions supported. She refused to give money to private organizations that supported issues with which she vehemently disagreed.
My mother was lucky. She had a choice. However, had my mother worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania instead of the federal government, she would have been forced to unionize. She would have been forced to violate her own moral code, to put money towards a private organization that was funding people and a political party that went against almost everything she believed in and held dear. Compulsory unionization is a form of enslavement and tyranny - one that respects the rights of a group over the rights of an individual.
But in Iowa, a Right to Work state, it’s a very different story and one where unions are in tune with their members and no one would ever be put in such a compromising position. Fred Comer, Executive Director of the teachers union in Iowa, highlighted this point during a radio show dealing with the National Education Association calling for a nationwide “homosexuality awareness month” in all the public schools. Comer was asked if his Iowa NEA affiliate would support that program. His response:
“. . . No, we don’t support it. Iowa is a Right to Work state, we have to earn our membership. If we supported that, we’d lose too many members.”
Of course they would, and rightly so. And that is very good for unions. Unions, which respond to their members needs and know they must work solely on behalf of the members or lose them, will be far more successful than a union whose members are coerced by their own government to pay dues.
Union leaders across America are starting to understand this. In Tennessee, the AFL-CIO failed to repeal the state’s Right to Work Law. That failure forced the former AFL-CIO executive vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson to conclude the union now must “go out into those communities and show (non-members) that we are also members of those communities.” Maybe then, Chavez-Thompson opined, “they will want to join unions.” As Oprah might say, Ms. Chavez-Thompson had an “ah-ha” moment. Now, if only the union bosses in Pennsylvania would too.
For if they would, they could create a wealth of economic benefits and prosperity for their workers and the working families of Pennsylvania. I know first hand the increasing difficulty of stretching the family budget, as wages seem to go down or stagnate while the cost of everything goes up. Would it not be wonderful to see the working families of this Commonwealth benefit from a Right To Work state? Here’s how we all could:
Private sector employee compensation (wages, salaries, benefits, and bonuses) is growing far more rapidly in Right to Work states than in forced unionization states.
The U.S. Commerce Department shows employee compensation in Right to Work states grew an average of 11.8 percent from 2000 to 2010, while forced-unionism states grew just 1.3 percent.
Fifteen of the 22 Right to Work states had faster compensation growth than Pennsylvania. The non-partisan Missouri Economic Research and Information Center shows Pennsylvania's cost of living-adjusted compensation per private-sector employee in 2010 was $55,998, more than $800 lower than the Right to Work state average.
What does all this mean to the working families of our state? It means both union and non-union workers would be bringing home more money and benefits if we were a Right to Work state.
The time has come for this great Commonwealth to determine what kind of state we want to be and what we will be moving forward. While the economic data is on our side, that alone is not enough to move this along. We must ask ourselves who and what we are as a people. Do we believe, as the father of the modern labor movement and founder of American Federation of Labor which became the AFL-CIO, Samuel Gompers once urged, “devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty –- the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek force, we but tear apart that which, united, is invincible.”
In other words, what Gompers was saying is that by forcing workers to join you actually undermine that which made it strong -- the unity of the workers.
The Pennsylvania Right to Work bills are not about unions, but about liberty. If you believe in the principles this country was founded on - the right to self-determination and respect for the individual, if you would like those things for yourself and for your children, then you will vote yes for House Bills 50-53. And, if you do not, then this General Assembly will have supported the notion that coercion and the subversion of a person’s own judgment and will is the order of the day.
Jennifer Stefano has become one of the leading voices for conservatism and the tea party movement in America today. The stay at home mother is a regular guest on Fox News and Fox Business News as well as local affiliates. Her articles and quotes have appeared in both local and national publications including the New York Times, Investors Business Daily, and The Washington Times.
Jennifer co-chairs The Loyal Opposition, one of Pennsylvania’s largest tea party groups. She is also the Director of Policy for Energy and Labor for Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania.
See video testimony below: